by Ari Robin McKenna
A mix of well over a hundred teachers, parents, and students showed up at the district headquarters in SoDo Wednesday, Oct. 27, for a rally on a quickly darkening, drizzly evening. A number of speeches were given under the partially covered colonnade in front of a red wall — on the other side of that wall the Seattle Public Schools (SPS) board was in a budget session addressing a $28.1 million loss of revenue due to enrollment decline and eyeing an estimated gap of $78 million for the 2022–2023 school year.
The rally was organized by Seattle Education Association (SEA) leadership in conjunction with the Special Education PTSA (SEPTSA). The protest was in response to word that there would be 50 schools affected by special education staffing adjustments — which SEPTSA reported on their blog. With the slogan “Needs Before Numbers,” the speakers at the rally criticized the impact of these moves at specific schools and a general lack of parent and teacher involvement in staffing decisions. Attendees also questioned whether a disproportionate amount of the 3,440 students that have left the district since 2019 were receiving appropriate special education services.
Tess Bath, a special education instructional assistant at Highland Park’s Social Emotional Learning (SEL) program, addressed the crowd warmly. “It’s really nice to be here with all y’all. We’ve been crying a lot and it feels really healing to just share space.” The start of the 2021–2022 school year, on the heels of two COVID-disrupted years, has been brutal on educators, and Bath read from a letter she’d sent to the district about how disruptive staffing changes can be in her line of work. “SEL is built on consistent and trusting relationships. To sever those would alter the very foundation of our program and our ability to do our jobs and serve our students … They deserve to have enough support to meet their IEP [Individual Education Program] goals, access their LRE [Least Restrictive Environment], and be seen as a priority by their school district.”
The disruption that occurs when a single educator is required to leave their school and the relationships they’ve built is incalculable. But given the context of a pandemic, a massive budget shortfall, and a special education system that favors white students, some have expressed doubts about the timing of this rally, and the information that catalyzed it.
Continue reading South End Equity Questions After Protest Highlights Special Education Staffing Moves
by Nhi Tran, Foziya Reshid, Thao-Mi Le
Advanced learning programs first made an appearance in Seattle schools during the 1960s with the adoption of the “Policy for the Education of Able Learners.” The program was created with the intent of providing every student with an education that would “challenge [their] maximum ability and meet [their] individual needs.” However, after introducing school busing in the 1970s, the district used this program as an incentive to keep white parents who opposed racial integration from pulling their children out of Seattle schools. This program provided select white students with an education separate from their Black and Brown peers, perpetuating a segregated school system.
Throughout Washington state, schools are required to provide “highly capable programs” for students they deem “gifted.” The state defines gifted as “students who perform or show potential for performing at significantly advanced academic levels when compared with others of their age, experiences, or environments.” The state allocates funds for each school district and, in return, school districts must abide by the state Legislature’s policies regarding basic education, which were redefined in 2011 to include programs for highly capable students. However, as you will see, these programs are built upon a foundation of white supremacy and constructed with the intent to perpetuate the segregation of schools on the basis of race and socioeconomic status.
Continue reading Why the NAACP Youth Council Is Demanding the Dismantling of HCC
by M. Anthony Davis
Brandon Hersey was appointed to the Seattle Public Schools Board to represent District 7 after Betty Patu resigned in 2019. Hersey, who was raised in a home of Black educators, currently lives in Rainier Beach and teaches second grade at Rainier View Elementary in Federal Way. Before becoming a teacher, Hersey’s experience in education policy included working for the Obama Administration as a policy analyst focusing on children and family issues.
Continue reading ‘Playtime Is Over’ — Brandon Hersey Is Serious About Educational Equity
by Ari Robin McKenna
On the day many pre K–12 students across the city were returning to in-person, hybrid learning, a petition brought by a group of three parents seeking to recall the entire Seattle Public Schools (SPS) Board was dismissed. King County Superior Court Judge Mafé Rajul’s ruling on Monday, April 19, found that that none of the 11 charges raised by three SPS parents, Emily Cherkin, Jennifer Crow, and Beverly Goodman, merited a petition to proceed.
Continue reading Judge Dismisses All Seattle Public School Board Recall Charges
by Ari Robin McKenna
On March 19, Michelle Sarju announced her candidacy for the Seattle Public Schools (SPS) District 5 School Board Director seat. SPS District 5 includes most of the downtown area from the Sound to Lake Washington and, specifically, the neighborhoods of Capitol Hill, the Chinatown/International District, First Hill, Leschi, Madison, and the Central District. Outgoing District 5 Board Director Zachary DeWolf has been one of those who have endorsed Sarju as her campaign launched.
In an interview with the Emerald, Sarju reflected on her professional life and how she feels it has prepared her to step into this role at this particular, historic moment. She also spoke about why she thinks it’s important the board includes a Black resident from the Central District who has had three children in SPS.
Continue reading Michelle Sarju Talks About Her Candidacy for District 5 School Board Director
The Morning Update Show — hosted by Trae Holiday and The Big O (Omari Salisbury) — is the only weekday news and information livestream that delivers culturally relevant content to the Pacific Northwest’s urban audience. Omari and Trae analyze the day’s local and national headlines as well as melanin magic in our community. Watch live every weekday at 11 a.m. on any of the following channels, hosted by Converge Media: YouTube, Twitch, Facebook, Periscope, and whereweconverge.com.
We also post the Morning Update Show here on the Emerald each day after it airs, so you can catch up any time of day while you peruse our latest posts.
Morning Update Show — Thursday, March 18
LIVE — Bookie Gates | LIVE — Julia Jessie | Update on Shooting in South End | Gun Violence Disruption | Community Voices: Vanishing Seattle Edition | Sarju to run for Seattle School Board
Continue reading The Morning Update Show — 3/18/21
by Ari Robin McKenna
On Friday, Feb. 26, Seattle Public School (SPS) District leaders for the second time announced a presumptive return date for a segment of its student population — despite not having an agreement with the union that represents teachers and other staff, the Seattle Education Association (SEA).
On Dec. 5, 2020, SPS Superintendent Denise Juneau caused SEA to cry foul when she announced a recommendation that students in pre-K through first grade and students in moderate to intensive special education service pathways should return to in-person on March 1. Later in the month, the Seattle School Board unanimously voted in support of Juneau’s aspirational reopening date, and bargaining teams began in earnest to sort through the many details involved in coming to an agreement with the union. In the meantime, a vocal minority of Seattle’s parents mounted pressure on the union to accept this date as though it were a given.
Then, at around 5 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 26, the last school day before their projected reopening date of March 1, teachers were again thrown for a loop when the headline on SPS’ website read, “Students in PreK-12 Intensive Service Pathways and Preschool Students Returning In-Person March 11.” This time, the school board voted (with Brandon Hersey the lone dissenting vote) to classify staff members who work with these returning students as essential workers.
Continue reading Leader of Seattle Education Association Reacts to Bargaining Over School Reopening
by Hanna Brooks Olsen
For a district preaching equity, the division of resources is suspect
There’s an agreed-upon rule in the Seattle area, which is that when school levies come up, voters pass them without hardly a second thought. Levies aren’t a perfect way to fund critical infrastructure like schools and public safety, but it’s one of the few tools that Washington lawmakers and public servants have; without an income or capital gains tax, it’s up to the voters to continually agree to tax themselves to fund projects. Continue reading When does Rainier Beach High School Get Its Turn?
by Erin Okuno
This year’s election will fundamentally change the way public education happens in Seattle. Three of the seven school board seats are up for election with only one incumbent running, the Mayor’s race is open with no incumbent (unless Mayor Murray declares a write-in candidacy), and the two at-large City Council seats are also up for election with only one incumbent running. With change being imminent to City Hall and the Seattle School District there is an opportunity to press a racial equity education agenda and reshape education in our city. Continue reading Voters Must Turn Out for Seattle’s School Board Election
by Marcus Harrison Green
Rainier Beach high school students have a simple message for the Seattle Public Schools Board: “Fix our school!”
On Wednesday, nearly a dozen Rainier Beach students traveled to the John Stanford Center in the SODO district to give public testimony at a third successive school board meeting. They demanded long-promised renovations for their school. Continue reading Students Demand Long-Promised Renovations for Rainier Beach High